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To Sleep, I Dread

          

Kenny Love
[kenlove@txucom.net]

I'm a self-proclaimed "cursed"novelist because ever since I began writing my first novel, practically, not a night goes by that I don't experience a horrendous nightmare, which is why sleeping is among the least of my favorite enjoyable pastimes.

           Cheryl, my beautiful wife, on the other hand, after having enjoyed success as an international, high-fashion model, decided to settle on a more normal career, having now become the vice president of a Fortune 500 marketing firm.

           The only drawback is that she's often required to attend various company classes or business meetings out of town for several days at a time during each month. And, during these times, are when the worst nightmares seem to occur.

           As she was away on such a trip tonight, I again experienced a nightmare, this time, set in the distant future and probably best described on a proverbial scale of one to ten, as a twelve.

           At the very least, this one was definitely off the Richter scale. The only good thing about tonight was that this was my wife's last night away during this particular outing, and I anxiously awaited her arrival in a few short hours.

           In the nightmare, however, Cheryl had suddenly been killed, although I don't know how, nor why. In the opening scene, I was standing, watching the embalming process through tear-soaked eyes, which was nothing like it is today.

           Firstly, the funeral parlor was located in a strip mall, of all places. In fact, you could, literally, walk out from having shopped at a shoe store next door, and directly into the funeral home.

           Secondly, the embalming area of the service was not located in the rear of the parlor as is tradition, but was, alternatively, up front, on full display and in open view, just as the other neighboring stores' products and services were.

           Strangely, no passers-by seemed upset whatsoever with this setup, except for me as I remembered how the experience of death was once considered to be a very respectable deal. But today, it was akin to a stop-in at McDonald's, except you casually dropped your order off instead of picking it up.

           I watched other people simply walk by while seeing all the gore, a few shrugging their shoulders, but all generally still moving along, most of them apparently accepting of, and not giving another thought to, any of it -- or worse, oblivious to it entirely.

           In any event, I was immediately cast into this horrific scene, watching my wife being embalmed, which freaked me out enough due to the fact that she wasn't being embalmed via the traditional method whereby the body is lying vertically.

           She was, instead, standing, held up and supported by some strange apparatus consisting of what appeared to be an approximately three-inch round elongated PVC-like pipe running vertically from along the left side of her head, down to her left leg, with the angular end of it inserted into her calf.

           Her legs were spread a shoulder-width apart and her head sagged, with her chin resting against her chest. Her eyes were closed and her arms were outstretched and supported on what appeared to be a five-foot crossbar that ran behind her neck, giving her the appearance of having just been crucified. In fact, the apparatus on which she hung appeared to have the overall relative shape of a crucifix.

           Interestingly, she was also still professionally dressed, sans stockings, in a purple skirt and wearing the patent leather black high heels I remembered having bought for this particular business meeting.

           I stared in horror as the blood churned and dripped, making awful sounds as the unforgiving embalming system forced it from her body and into what appeared to be a bucket that had been placed directly below her leg. Each drop seemed to be amplified as if a microphone was sending its reverberating sound through a public address system.

           Then, for some odd reason, I had the desire to approach her in order to get a closer look at the system. I accessed the podium on which she was propped and braved a peek at the top of the pipe-like element, which I discovered had an open end.

           Lord, I can't even remember what I saw -- or felt -- next, but I moved away from her, and off the podium to the front left angle of it.

           In my peripheral vision, I saw a female, whom I assumed was a mortician, dressed in a powder blue shower cap and matching waist-length clinical jacket, blue jeans and sneakers on her knees spreading two different types of gooey messes on the floor with a mitten on each hand. I then turned to look at her straight on.

           One of the messes she was spreading with one hand in a wide back-and-forth wipe ritual was a sparkling light green in color while the other mess she was spreading in a similar fashion with the other hand, was a hazy yellow which also appeared to emit a foggy mist from it that rose to the ceiling.

           Instantaneously, an express delivery service person wearing a dark brown uniform labeled, "Jetstream Services," across the left side of the chest, burst into the parlor, flung one of the double glass doors against the wall, then rushed to the mortician and handed her a small boxed package while saying nothing. However, I could not see the face because of a mask and cap.

           Immediately, the mortician stared up at the deliverer with fearful eyes and a gaping mouth, seemingly surprised. She, then, went ballistic, yelling at me to run out to her car and get her purse, which I did, although I can't explain how I knew which car was hers, but I did.

           All this time, I had the feeling that the reason she had become upset, was because the rates of the express deliverer, who now seemed to pace nervously across the floor, would dramatically increase within a certain time frame upon arrival. At least, that's what I reasoned at the time.

           Rushing back inside and handing her the purse, the mortician, still on her knees and upset, gave me what I considered a dirty look, then jerked the purse from me and quickly opened it. She extracted a money clip of bills and tossed it to the delivery person, who caught it then rushed out the door just as having rushed in.

           As I was still standing approximately ten feet away from Cheryl's body, I had just turned to get another glimpse of her still being automatically embalmed by this strange insensitive contraption when she startled me by suddenly jerking her head up from her chest, opening her eyes and locking a fixed stare onto something directly across the room on the far wall.

           Simultaneously, she removed her arms from the crossbar and brought them down by her sides. She then flexed the muscle in her calf once, which caused the contraption to react by automatically removing itself while emitting a buzzing sound.

           In the next few seconds, she elevated her left leg in a quick jerky movement, holding it in a frozen state while the blood still dripped from it intermittently. During this, her eyes never altered their fixed state.

           A male mortician, who was wearing the same type of attire as the female mortician, entered from a back room, looked at my wife momentarily, then stared at me while stating that some unwelcome visitor had been in the funeral parlor "messing with the body."

           He then led me to a side area to watch a surveillance monitor, as I continued to stare back at my wife sporadically in utter amazement. The monitor revealed the top of my head, but not my face.

           Watching it, I assumed the remote camera was located somewhere in the pipe-like object I had just peered down though I never saw it.

           Suddenly, all hell broke loose. Cheryl's body made a strange guttural sound, and she released her fixated stare from whatever her eyes had espied, then turned her eyes on me. With a hint of a faint smile, she stepped away from the apparatus and down from the podium to the floor, as her body appeared to gather its composure.

           Then, more bodies, in all stages of decomposition, immediately appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and began dancing around fluidly and happily in what appeared to be a celebration of being "alive" once more.

           Seeing all of this, unnaturally, I'm now well past the brink of any possible return to sanity and finally make my getaway in half a heartbeat, bolting out the parlor's front doors like a madman for my car, which I had, obviously, used my last good sense to leave parked alongside the curb.

           Rushing to it and jumping in, while gathering the keys from my right pants pocket, that old black and white movie, "Night of the Living Dead," began playing over and over in my mind.

           The last scene I remember as I quickly slammed my door shut, started my car and threw it in gear, was looking through the parlor's window to see the male mortician laughing uncontrollably at me while now sitting in a rocking chair, holding and caressing a once dead baby who, just like all the others, seemed to have, somehow, miraculously come back to life. I barley smelled the smoke and heard the screeching from my car's spinning tires.

           I was awaken from this nightmare by knocking at my front door. I abruptly sat up, wiped the sweat from my brow, shook my head several times in an attempt to rid it of the cobwebs and gathered my robe from the foot of the bed, putting it on as I headed for the door.

           Reaching it and peering through the peephole, I could see two uniformed policemen. A cold fear enveloped me as I reluctantly opened the door.

           "Um, what's the problem, officers?"

           "Are you Mr. Simon...Mr. Peter Simon?" one of them asked.

           "Yes, I'm Peter Simon. What's going on?"

           "I'm afraid we have some unsettling news, Sir, it's," He hesitated, looked at his partner, then back at me. "It's about your wife, Sir."

           A chill ran down the length of my spine and I felt my palms become moist.

           "My, my wife?" I muttered. "Wha , what happened?" I managed to get out.

           "Sir, I'm afraid there's been an accident," the other officer said.

           "An accident? What kind of an accident?" I said, uncertain if it was an inbound plane accident, or if Cheryl had an accident on the way home, as she had driven her car to the airport, then left it reserved there.

           "Sir, your wife's plane crashed while en route from Saint Louis. I'm sorry to say that, unfortunately, there were no survivors."

           Though I had suspected something was awry after seeing them, hearing this hit me like a ton of bricks, causing me to stagger backward a step, or two. I drew my hand to my face as I began to openly weep.

           "Sir," the other officer began. "Sir, we are, indeed, sorry for your loss. If you will please come down to the coroner's office for identification," he said, "we will be glad to take you and bring you back."

           "Yes, sure," I said. "Please come in while I get dressed."

           I quickly dressed as they waited, then chauffeured me to the coroner's office located on the east side of town. After a thirty-minute drive, we turned into an all too familiar territory, a strip mall, pulling alongside a curb.

           The driver shut off the car and both of the officers began to gather their accessories and exit the vehicle as I still sat, reluctant to move. Afraid of what was unfolding already, nervously, I turned and peered out the car window and through the coroner's window to see in plain view, my wife in a vertical position, supported by the same type of apparatus I had seen in my nightmare.

           I could also see the same male and female morticians as well, dressed exactly as they had been, awaiting my exit from the police cruiser with sly smiles on their faces. They stared at me, and I, at them.

           "God," I prayed as the officer opened and held the door for me while I exited the cruiser. "Please let this be just another friggin' nightmare."



About the Author (click here) © 2001 Kenny Love, all rights reserved
 appears here by permission



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